Dear Next Generation: Lessons From Grandmother Grace

By Dear Next Generation
Dear Next Generation
Dear Next Generation
June 20, 2021 Updated: August 14, 2021

There is a “woke” belief that once our post-COVID nation completely reopens, the unprecedented opportunity will exist to reinvent the workplace. The argument? The modern work-office environment we have today was created after World War II, by men for men, while the wife handles the duties at home.

The “woke” obviously never met my grandmother.

My Grandmother Grace worked at the General Electric Company in Asheboro, North Carolina, for 30 years. As a side hustle, she fell back on her sewing skills and altered wedding dresses and formals. She had always longed to become a nurse, so at retirement and as a senior citizen, she enrolled in nursing school. She spent her last years on the “floor” of a hospital serving others in their hour of need.

She raised four beautiful daughters, of which one was my lovely mother. That Grandmother Grace was born in 1913, that she survived the Great Depression, that she was one of 12 siblings, that she was tragically widowed with these small children, and that she went into the work field is a testament to her resilience. She believed that “where there’s a will, there’s a way,” something we all lose sight of during difficult times. Chin up. Press on.

I never heard her complain about being a victimized woman in a man’s world.

More than 6 million women took wartime jobs in factories during World War II, while 3 million women volunteered with the Red Cross. With our men fighting abroad, the women on the homefront pulled together with upbeat energy the desire to learn to fix cars, to do the finances, to work in defense plants, and to write uplifting, positive letters to their soldier husbands. Rosie the Riveter promised the Allies that the needed war materials would be on time to defeat the Axis, and they were.

Over 350,000 were in the newly formed women’s military corps: WAACs, WAVES, the Marine Corps Reserve, SPARS, and WASPS, the Army Nurses Corps, and the Navy Nurses Corps. General Eisenhower believed that World War II could not have been successful, freeing the Axis world of tyranny and oppression, without the women in uniform.

My mother was born just before World War II began. She graduated from Mars Hill College in business, married our father, and had us four children. At times, she stayed home, and, at times, she needed to work, but she was not “trapped” by a strict hierarchy after World War II in which the women were to handle the duties at home. My parents shared this so-called “duty,” although I’m sure that they would prefer the word “blessing” when describing our home.

Me? I was born in the late ’50s, after the Korean War. I married a coach who is 14 years my senior, and we have been married for 45 years now. We are both retired public school teachers, and we’ve raised two special needs sons: one biological and one adopted, both disabled by mental illness and one a genetic anomaly.

The example of resilience my Grandmother Grace set for me has been essential to my family: Chin up. Press on. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. My husband (born during World War II) was an active participant in our sons’ upbringing. He had no problem washing dishes or doing the laundry every week. I loved to cut the grass.

So to those who are feeling small and pressured by the possible reinvention of the “woke” workplace post-COVID, here is my message: Do what you wish to do. If you wish to work, then work. If you wish to stay home with your children, then stay home. You are not anchored to some World War II model that defines the woman’s role. That died a long time ago. We live in a free country, and that means you get to choose. No one should give you a “put down” for that. If they do, they’ll eventually get over it.

Cynde O’Rear, South Carolina


What advice would you like to give to the younger generations?

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